In more than 200 meetings during the NAMA Fly-In in Washington, D.C. this July, operators told Senators and Representatives about their businesses, how they were contributing to the local economy and touched on three issues: sustainability, specifically the voluntary actions taken by the industry; nutritious products already in vending machines; and, finally, support of H.R. 527 & S. 1536, a bill that would demand the impact on small business be considered for all new legislation.
I was lucky enough to sit in with delegates outside my state to see how the process went for other states and it was here that I realized the importance of continued advocacy. In response to the last issue about considering the impact on small business, one of the congressman’s aids was less than supportive. He said that the Senate creates agencies, which then are responsible for governing themselves, and therefore the Senator would not be supporting legislation that created a law forcing the agency to consider small business specifically. I was personally a bit downtrodden when we left the office, feeling somehow that we weren’t as persuasive as we could have been. However, a veteran operator who has been to Capitol Hill many times said, “That was a good meeting.”
He said good because the aid had remembered the team from last year and that this was the important aspect of what we were doing in Washington, D.C. “It’s about coming year after year, chipping away and making sure Congress is concerned about us and our businesses,” said this operator.
The turtle's journey
His comment reminded me of the example Eric Dell, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at NAMA, used to show how important grassroots advocacy is to an outcome. In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration was required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to publish a rule on calorie disclosure and how it would be accomplished in vending machines so consumers could view the calorie counts prior to making a purchase. It took 4 years for the FDA to publish the final rule (after missing its previous deadlines). This December, 6 years later, implementing the rule will finally be required. Yet, the journey to calorie disclosure on vending machines is still a moving target. On July 11, 2016, the FDA stepped backwards, and gave an extension for implementation in two instances for food/snacks/beverages in vending machines. During the Fly-In, FDA representatives discussed the rule, and these extensions.
Extensions for small candy, text size
According to FDA representatives, only the requirement for a large text size on front-of-pack labeling and the necessary calorie disclosure on gum/mint/roll candy would be given an extension. There will also not be high fines or jail time for failing to display the calorie count before a purchase. The first year, the FDA will be educating operators found to be in violation of the calorie disclosure rule. After that, there will be letters and other processes, but the rule does not give the FDA additional powers to create severe sanctions against operators.
The FDA representatives confirmed that both video screens containing caloric information as well as front-of-pack labeling on products in glass front machines where consumers can view the information before buying would meet the requirement of the final rule. Many industry members feel this is directly related to efforts made through advocacy and the working relationship NAMA has with the FDA.